By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is hoping that free online entertainment and classes will help people through the pandemic winter and convince more folks to stay home.
The Progressive Conservative government announced a $3-million grant program Monday for performing artists, fitness instructors and others who can stream their services to the general public.
“We recognize that staying home this holiday season and not being able to see our friends and family will be very difficult,” Municipal Relations Minister Rochelle Squires said.
“Additional programming over the holidays will make that time a little easier, we hope.”
The money will be available for a wide range of items such as online cooking classes, musical performances and yoga. Recipients must make their programming available to the general public for free.
One event already in the works is a variety show that will be pre-recorded at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Company.
The announcement was another indication that Manitoba is likely to be under substantial restrictions on public gatherings and business openings for at least the near future.
The current set of health orders includes a five-person cap on public gatherings and the mandatory closure of bars, concert venues and non-essential retail stores.
It also forbids people from having house guests, with some exceptions. Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer, again urged people to stay at home as much as possible in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Our case numbers remain too high to sustain. There’s still too much strain on our health-care system,” Roussin said.
Health officials reported 325 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba Monday and 12 additional deaths. The rate of people testing positive remained high, at more than 13 per cent.
Roussin cautioned snowbirds and other winter travellers to cancel any non-essential travel — not just because of the health risks.
“Restrictions are changing quickly and may be imposed on countries with little warning. Your travel plans could be severely disrupted … you may be forced to remain outside of Canada longer than expected.”